On Saturday 24 March the African Union (AU) initiative against LRA was launched during a ceremony in Juba, South Sudan. I have already posted about this military operation which has the following objectives: strengthen the response capacity of the countries affected by the atrocities of the LRA, in order to create inherent capabilities; create an environment conducive to the stabilisation of the region free of LRA atrocities and inclusive of a political process within the framework of the Juba Agreement, if and when duly signed; and facilitate the delivery of humanitarian assistance to the affected areas.
The operation was authorised by the AU Peace and Security Council on the 22 November last year but it has taken some time for the Regional Task Force (RTF) to become operational. Even though the armies from the affected countries have been fighting the LRA for some time (Ugandan troops have been in the area since 2008) the AU RCI-LRA is meant to coordinate these efforts. Although the RCI-LRA is supported by the UN and the US there is no UN Security Council resolution. Last year, however, the UN Security Council requested the UN Secretary General Special Representative for Central Africa and Head of the United Nations Regional Office for Central Africa (UNOCA), Abou Moussa, to finalise a regional LRA strategy. A few days ago on March 23 representatives of the UN, African Union and the UN stabilisation mission to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) provided an update on the regional strategy.
The RTF has its headquarters in Yambio, South Sudan and will be led by an Ugandan commander, Dick Prit Olum. Senior commanders from Uganda, South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and the Central African Republic (CAR) will be in charge of a contingent of 5,000 soldiers but it is not yet clear whether force commanders will be in operational command of soldiers from other nations. The initiative allows for cross border operations and is meant to improve cooperation and intelligence sharing between the state security forces active in the region as well as between those and the UN missions in South Sudan and DRC.
The European Union (EU) has pledged 9 million euros in humanitarian aid for the affected populations. EU also financially supports the AU Special Envoy for LRA affected areas, Francisco Madeira, but has so far been reluctant to provide any support to the military operation as there are no mechanisms for accountability, no clear plan for civilian protection and there is no UN mandate for the operation. Apparently unspecified international partners have promised to support the AU military operation although the four countries, CAR, DRC, South Sudan and Uganda remain responsible for covering their costs for the operations.
I really don’t know what the chances are to find LRA and Joseph Kony in this area the size of Sweden covered in dense forest with very few roads. There is always a risk with military operations and given the past atrocities committed by the security forces that now will participate in the operation, the prospect for civilian protection is rather dim.